My mother, as well as a whole lot of other people, finds mock meat both “weird” and “scary”. A lot of people can’t figure out why vegans would want to eat something that tastes or even looks like meat. Well, people have all sorts of reasons for being vegan, or even eating vegan part-time, and many of those reasons may not preclude the desire to taste meat. And most vegans haven’t been vegan since birth, so I think a lot of the time people are trying to replicate dishes that were previously “comfort food” or that have happy memories associated with them. I generally avoid the highly processed mock meats you can find in grocery stores because it’s just not very healthy, although I do occasionally buy certain items when I don’t have time to cook a proper meal. But mostly when I prepare any sort of fake “meat” dish, the “meat” is little more than a vehicle for a certain type of sauce or seasonings that are associated with the meat. For example, do you really eat jerk chicken to taste the chicken? No, it’s the seasoning. So what difference does it make if you instead eat jerk tofu?

With that in mind, one of the most popular dishes I make is a recipe for “UnRibs” that I got off the internet ages ago. I’ve been making it for years and it is universally enjoyed by omnivores. The fact of the matter is very few of my friends are vegetarian, and I don’t even know any vegans other than my husband. So when I entertain, I have to make very “accessible” food. Although I fortunately have pretty adventurous friends who will eat practically anything I make them, I’m not going to get away with serving them nothing but braised bean sprouts and raw carrots. One of the best compliments I got as a hostess came from a friend’s boyfriend who said, “You are the best kind of vegan because you don’t force your views on anyone, you just cook amazing food.” It’s very important to me that I show people that vegan food is not strange or restrictive or scary. A couple of the ingredients for the famous “rib” recipe may seem a bit esoteric for non-vegans, which I usually try to avoid, but the results are just too good in this case.

The recipe I use for the “UnRibs” is not original to me, although I will supply my own barbeque sauce recipe. You can use your favorite barbeque sauce, either bottled or homemade, or you can try mine (which is never the same twice, but I’ll post what I did tonight). I don’t remember where I got the UnRibs recipe, but I have a note that it is from the cookbook Kathy Cooks.

Here’s all you need:

If you are vegan, you are probably familiar with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is different than brewer’s yeast and can be found in health food stores. It has a savory, somewhat cheesy flavor (which is why vegans use it in cheese substitutes). The package on the left in the photo contains dried yuba sticks. Yuba is “bean curd skin”. When hot soy milk is left undisturbed, it forms a skin on the top that can be removed and eaten, or dried for later use. This “skin” is yuba. It is rich and more flavorful than tofu. It is somewhat chewy. For the ribs you want to purchase dried yuba in stick form as shown. (It is also sold in sheets and other forms.) You can find yuba in Asian grocery stores. If you absolutely can’t find it, you can substitute seitan, although cooking time may then vary.

Here’s the recipe in its original form, followed by photo tutorial:


8 oz dried bean curd (yuba) sticks
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp miso
2 Tbsp melted soy margarine
2 tsp paprika
2 cups barbeque sauce

Soak the dried bean curd 4-6 hours or overnight in hot water. Drain and cut sticks into 4-6 inch lengths. Squeeze out excess water and drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil cookie sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the next five ingredients together to form a smooth paste.

Toss yuba in and mix until all sticks are evenly coated. Lay sticks in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Bake 25 minutes or until bottoms are brown and crispy.

Remove from oven and put into mixing bowl with barbeque sauce. Toss well. Arrange sticks in single layer on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Now my photos:

Here is the yuba after soaking for several hours:

After draining the soaked yuba, chop it into smaller pieces:

Place the remaining ingredients (except barbeque sauce) into a small bowl:

Mix the ingredients together: it’s easiest to just do it with your hands and sort of knead it. When it comes together it will be like a paste:

Place the chopped yuba back into the bowl or pot you soaked it in, then put the paste into the bowl. Then prepare to get your hands dirty! Just start rubbing the paste into the yuba. Since some water will still be clinging to the yuba, the paste will start to dissolve. Here it is about halfway through rubbing:

And here it is fully rubbed in:

Place the ribs on a single layer on a cooking surface. I made a double batch, which fit nicely on a half sheet pan, which I lined with parchment for easy cleanup:

I usually bake them for longer than the 25 minutes stated in the original recipe. I think these were actually in for closer to 50 minutes. But check to make sure they don’t burn. You want them a bit crisp, but not blackened.

When the ribs are somewhat crisp, smother in barbeque sauce and return to the oven for another 10-20 minutes.

By the way, if you purchase nutritional yeast specifically for this recipe, and don’t know what to do with the remainder, try it on popcorn! I’ll probably be suggesting it here and there in recipes, too. Also try giving it to your cat. Tigger LOVES LOVES LOVES this stuff. I can’t go near it without him sinking his claws into my clothes (or bare skin) and dragging me and the can closer to him. It’s actually good for cats, too. Here he is enjoying a plateful:

Now, as for the barbeque sauce, I usually make it up as I go along, but the following is generally the basis for most of my ribs sauces. But please tweak it to your own tastes.

Here are the ingredients I usually round up:

Barbeque Sauce

1 onion, chopped
4-8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-4 chili peppers, chopped
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup vinegar (I used apple cider)
2 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp liquid smoke
1-2 tsp chili powder (I used chipolte)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dry mustard

Saute the onion in a bit of oil or soy margarine, adding the garlic and chili peppers after a few minutes, until soft. If you don’t have fresh chili peppers, you can use chili pepper flakes to taste. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for half an hour or longer.

Let cool slightly and then puree using an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, let cool more fully and blend, in batches if necessary, in a regular blender. NEVER add hot liquids to a regular blender.

That’s it! Why bother buying bottled, eh?

I usually serve with mashed or roasted potatoes and a veggie. I over-steamed the broccoli, so tonight it was peas!

It’s one of Mark’s favorite dishes!

Comments (8)